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Subject: Teaching a game effectively...need pointers. rss

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Scott Quackenbush
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I run a 5-6 player game group every week. I accept this as a blessing...I know how hard it can be to find regular players. I am the one who collects the games, and, furthermore, I am the one who reads all of the manuals, watches tutorials and reviews, sets up one-player dummy games in order to learn the game, etc. (before anyone asks, no, nobody is willing to do anything like read the manual on their own...I make them available). It therefore falls to me to teach the games.

I need to know how to teach a game, because I am apparently pretty bad at it. I talk for about 60 seconds before several of my players get this glassy-eyed, comatose look. It's only a matter of minutes before someone says, "I have no idea what's going on."

I always start by laying out the win-conditions (points, specific goal, kill all of the other players, etc.). Then I go into what happens in a player turn (I've lost most of them around this point). Then, I propose that we just hit it...most of the time I find that only working through an actual round of play will demonstrate the mechanics properly. I even offer up a dummy round, to get the hang of things. Then, if the group desires (and if it isn't wildly impractical), we can reset and start again. I'd go into more detail to start with, but nobody remembers any fine details anyway.

Most games that I own are collecting dust because we will play them and a lot of the players don't even remember playing them (Rex comes to mind...everyone insists that I've never brought it to the table. I assure you that I have). I want to be able to teach these games in a way that is engaging and not intimidating. Any suggestions? What are other peoples' methods of teaching games?
 
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Cagey McCageface
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Try this for some tips http://www.shutupandsitdown.com/videos/v/rules-explanations/
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Scott Quackenbush
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Cool, thanks! Love videos...I tend to be very visual.
 
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T. Dauphin
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I wouldn't say you're too far off the mark.
I always start with the goal, as well.
After that a general overview of how they're going to accomplish that would give them an idea how the detailed step by step through a turn fits in to the overall play, once you start with that explanation.
You could play it up a bit during that explanation, too, and highlight exciting bits along the way to hook them.

Then go into the play by play, and perhaps just the steps/actions, and not necessarily the details of how each is accomplished. However, you may still lose some at this point, because some people really don't have the patience for that kind of learning no matter how you dress it up, and jumping into a round to learn it hands on will likely be necessary regardless.

But you may want to identify the ones who do want more info and start targeting them with some or all of the rule book ahead of time, or just spend a couple more minutes explaining things but understanding that you're really only talking to them.

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Shawn Harriman
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You have a tough role being the only one.
I have a regular group about the same size and we bring plenty of new games.
Whoever brings the new game is responsible for teaching.
Yes through a constant barrage of "I don't get it" "this is a boat race!" "WTF I am a farmer?!?! in this game" etc...
No not one of them will read the rulebook but all of them will say "you never told us that!"
Luckily we are all friends and the razzing has an endearing quality (I guess)

You are on the right track learning all you can, any way you can before exposing yourself to the hyenas.
 
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H C
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1. Say how to win - the objective.
2. Say, with one sentence per phase, the phases and what you generally do.
3. Repeat the objective.
4. Go into each phase with a 2-3 sentence description of each phase/turn
5. Repeat the objective.
6. Play and teach/remind as you go.

Have them hold their questions until you finish all 6 steps and then let them ask, and try to explain relatively fast - you want to start within 5 minutes and preferably 2. Don't talk about any exceptions/special rules unless its game breaking. They convolute it for new players and aren't totally necessary for the game's essence.

If your game has a simplified variant, like Agricola's Family/Beginner Variant, always start with that first. Never throw in any expansions on the first play through.
 
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T. Dauphin
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jmayDET wrote:


That's a good video.
thanks for that link.


 
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Jamal Green
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I second that ShuUpAndSitDown.com video -- it's a great study.

And actually... reading through your strategy it sounds pretty good to me. Maybe just more reassurance is needed as you go to make sure people don't get overwhelmed.

Leading with the win condition is great. I can't believe how many DON"T do this when teaching a game and I see the confusion on those trying to learn... "uh, why do we want to do such and such action; what's the goal?"

Even before all this, I like to tell everyone that they don't need to remember everything up front and that the player aide will re-cap most of it and as a group we can address fringe cases as they come up. Then try to dissuade questions until you've at least gone through the overview and an example turn. If you see sense confusion, YOU ask question to confirm understanding ("Does that make sense?, See how that works?")

Also, I've found it often becomes problematic if more than one person tries to teach. So, if there's somebody else in group who also knows the game, ask that person to let you run the show unless you really need an assist.


 
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Phoebe Wild
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The way you've said you go through the rules is the same order I'd explain things. Not knowing you or your group, one of two things are possible (or both!)

Firstly, the fact that your group has a hard time following rules / explanations doesn't necessarily mean that you're bad at teaching games. It could be a result of your group having a short attention span, or not being as familiar with games in general, or having a preference towards games lighter than those you bring to the table. Glazing over at the intro section is very indicative of this, in my opinion. I have some friends who do this, and it gives me a very good idea of the weight of games I should teach them in the future.

Try bringing in some lighter games, or ones with quicker explanations, and see how they handle those to see if this is an issue.

But it is possible that, secondly, you need to work on your explanations. Teaching games is a skill that takes practice, but that definitely does improve. You also need to be able to adapt to your groups needs - if your group prefers to learn by jumping into a round, then try explaining the bare necessities and just starting with your turn and explain by demonstrating, and give advice / hints / tips / further explanations on their turns.

Make sure they know what they're trying to do (victory condition), give them a brief explanation of how they can do that, and then just start. If they're having fun, it doesn't matter if they play perfectly. They'll likely want to play again, and they'll be better in that game.

Maybe that advice is terribly vague, but I do relate to the glazing over phenomena. It's a matter of knowing your audience, rather than shoddy teaching.
 
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Darryl with one "R"
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Of course, all of this advice goes out the window if you're trying to teach Troyes. Regardless of how you try to teach that game, you'll see a lot of this: shake
 
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Pete
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QM3K wrote:
I run a 5-6 player game group every week. I accept this as a blessing...I know how hard it can be to find regular players. I am the one who collects the games, and, furthermore, I am the one who reads all of the manuals, watches tutorials and reviews, sets up one-player dummy games in order to learn the game, etc. (before anyone asks, no, nobody is willing to do anything like read the manual on their own...I make them available). It therefore falls to me to teach the games.

I need to know how to teach a game, because I am apparently pretty bad at it. I talk for about 60 seconds before several of my players get this glassy-eyed, comatose look. It's only a matter of minutes before someone says, "I have no idea what's going on."

I always start by laying out the win-conditions (points, specific goal, kill all of the other players, etc.). Then I go into what happens in a player turn (I've lost most of them around this point). Then, I propose that we just hit it...most of the time I find that only working through an actual round of play will demonstrate the mechanics properly. I even offer up a dummy round, to get the hang of things. Then, if the group desires (and if it isn't wildly impractical), we can reset and start again. I'd go into more detail to start with, but nobody remembers any fine details anyway.

Most games that I own are collecting dust because we will play them and a lot of the players don't even remember playing them (Rex comes to mind...everyone insists that I've never brought it to the table. I assure you that I have). I want to be able to teach these games in a way that is engaging and not intimidating. Any suggestions? What are other peoples' methods of teaching games?
I am situated similarly. Here are my tips:

1. Learn the rules before they show up. You'll never get them right the first time if there is pressure to hurry up and get through them so you can start playing.

2. Set up the new game ahead of time before people show up. It really makes a difference in the time it takes to go over the rules if you're not also setting up. Do not play a 2nd new game that night; either play the same game again or pull out something you already know.

3. Print out a set of instructions for each of the other players. They will help you get them right, and if they claim you didn't show them a rule, they had every opportunity to read it themselves.

Pete (took some 20 years to get this right, but thinks he finally has)
 
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Mark Watson
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JammerG wrote:

Leading with the win condition is great. I can't believe how many DON"T do this when teaching a game and I see the confusion on those trying to learn... "uh, why do we want to do such and such action; what's the goal?"


It depends on the game (one of the problems with these sort of threads - there's not really a generic approach you can take that works for every game). For something where players can have different victory conditions, such as Rex, it's often easier to explain some of the general mechanics and then go through the individual win conditions with the player they apply to rather than explain every potential win condition to everyone.

Beyond that, it's important to tie in the actions a player can take to the win condition. This helps them understand why they'd want to do somethng.

Another thing that can help is breaking up the rule explanation across several turns, particularly if it's a game where the possible actions can change over turns. If I'm teaching something like Caverna for example, I'll only explain the actions available in the first turn. You can stop the game when a new action becomes available to explain how it works. This can even be applied to games which don't have a similar format - in Archipelago for example while all actions are theoretically available in turn one, there's only a few it's actually sensible to take at that point. So I explain those, and wait until turn 2 to cover the rest.
 
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Pete Martyn
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Keep in mind that learning styles vary considerably from person to person -- if some of the people in your group can articulate how they learn best, so much the better.

I learn just fine from reading rules, but several of the bright, attentive people I play with have a hard time if I'm just reading (or paraphrasing) from a rulebook. They're much more visual in their learning style, so it helps to set things up, move some pieces around, pass around cards, etc. I think that's true of a lot of people -- what they're learning doesn't become "real" until they've seen it, held it, etc.

It sounds like your group has a lot of people like this, so I'd stick with the idea of dummy rounds if they're at all amenable. Play for fifteen or twenty minutes, explain as you go, and let people flail around and learn from each other's mistakes.

But really, I'd just ask them what works and what doesn't. At least some of them can probably give you useful advice. Also, consider complexity and similarity. Maybe you can use some slightly simpler games and then introduce games that build on what they've learned?
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Maarten Schopman
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http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/166066/teaching-rules is a starting point i've used in the past.
 
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